Tunisian PM sacks minister over criticism of Saudi Arabian Islam

November 4, 2016 9:56 AM EDT

Tunisia's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed talks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia, September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi


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TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's prime minister sacked the minister of religious affairs on Friday after he accused Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi brand of Islam of being behind "terrorism and extremism".

"Prime Minister Youssef Chahed decided to dismiss Salem Abd El Jalil, minister of religious affairs, from his duties due to the lack of respect for government work and his statements that touched principles of Tunisian diplomacy," the premier's office said in a statement.

Tunisian media on Thursday quoted Abd El Jalil as saying in parliament: "I told the Saudi ambassador in Tunisia that terrorism and extremism historically came from you ... You should reform your (religious) school."

He could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.

Tunisia, one of the Arab world's most secular countries, has turned to Western and Gulf allies for financing since its 2011 uprising ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The North African state has become a major source of jihadists fighting in Iraq, Syria and neighbouring Libya. More than 3,000 Tunisians are believed to be involved and critics say foreign imam recruiters are partly to blame.

Saudi officials reject criticism that their country's austere Wahhabi school of Islam fuels jihadism. They point to the country's detention of thousands of suspected militants and intelligence-sharing with allies.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by Patrick Markey and Andrew Roche)



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